The 49ers this week locked in five practice-squad players for the 2011 season, but not their most prominent one, Nate Davis. The second-year quarterback who had the best arm on the team and who became a fan favorite over the last two preseasons was not offered a future contract, making him a free agent and thus available to sign with any team beginning next week.
Instead, those signed to future contracts were: wide receivers Kevin Jurovich and Lance Long, running back Xavier Omon, center Nick Howell and kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, who played for the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the United Football League this season.
The 49ers appear to have cut ties with Davis at a time when they have few options at quarterback. Alex Smith, who started Sunday's finale against Arizona, is an unrestricted free agent and is likely to have several suitors in a free-agent market that will be short on quarterbacks with playing experience.
Troy Smith probably will be a restricted free agent, making him relatively easy to re-sign if the incoming head coach likes him. David Carr seems the most likely to be on the roster next season. No one sees him as a long-term solution at the position, but he's under contract for next year and has the right disposition to work with a young player.
Davis, meanwhile, frustrated coaches and front-office officials with his combination of undeniable talent but dubious work ethic. "I'm not sure how hard he worked in the offseason in getting that done," Mike Singletary said in August. "So when I talk about work ethic, you just can't turn it on and turn it off. Now that we're in training camp, 'Well, I'm really trying! I'm really trying!' In the offseason, in the OTAs, the minicamps and all those things - that's when you have to get that done, and that's when you have to stay up and drive the coaches crazy and look at film and ask all the questions you possibly can. And I'm not sure he did that."
At the beginning of the 2008 season, Davis was considered a first-round prospect out of Ball State. But in the ensuing draft, he wasn't picked until the fifth round. Teams were wary for a number of reasons: Davis didn't finish the 2008 season on a high note; He mostly played out of the shotgun at Ball State and threw with a glove on his hand; and he had a learning disability that made teams question how quickly he could absorb an NFL playbook.
When the 49ers released Davis before the end of the season, the other 31 other teams had a chance to claim him. All of them passed, and Davis was placed on the 49ers practice squad where he made no practice passes and mostly played tight end for the scout team. The move also failed to spark a renewed work ethic in Davis. He gained a considerable amount of weight after going on the practice squad.
-- Matt Barrows